Edmundo Santos and the Revolution of Dubbing in Disney

Those of us who enjoy animation sometimes notice that the dubbing for this kind of films differs quite significantly from the original, with the aim of achieving the magic that is so necessary to attract children (and, why not, adults as well). However, it generally goes unnoticed that the manner in which the dubbing is done these days owes a lot to the dubbing actor and director Edmundo Santos, who lay the foundations for the practices of the industry today.

From Mexico and a dancer by profession, Santos arrived on the stages of Broadway thanks to his comedic talent. In the early 1940s, Edmundo had a radio program in Tijuana, Mexico. Based on his critique of the Spanish versions of Disney films, in which he stated that they lacked musicality, that the lyrics were forced and that they lacked rhythm, they called him from the Disney studios in Burbank. Walt Disney himself received him and tasked him with adapting Blue Star, for the movie Pinocchio. However, at that time, the Argentine studio Sono Film, in Buenos Aires, was responsible for doing the dubbing for the Spanish-speaking market for films such as Bambi and Dumbo.

In parallel, in 1943, Walt Disney hired Edmundo Santos as an associate in Hello, Friends and the following year in The Three Caballeros. As of then, Disney tasked Edmundo Santos with dubbing its films in its Los Angeles, California studios. This period was marked by the variety of accents of the actors. In the dubbing, they would also imitate the various accents in the original work. Later on, Edmundo decided to use the standard accent for all his dubbing work in the “neutral” accent, i.e. that it be intelligible for any Spanish speaker, devoid of localisms.

During the following years, Santos associated himself with different dubbing artists and founded several recording studios where he dubbed movies such as Lady and the Tramp (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959) and 101 Dalmatians (1961).

Then, as of 1964, certain films that had already been dubbed in Argentina, which did not adhere to this concept of neutrality being sought, were dubbed again. These films were Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi and Song of the South. Pinocchio was also set to be redubbed and the casting had already been prepared, but for various reasons this ultimately fell through and the Argentine version has remained until today.

The Jungle Book (1967) was the last film supervised by Walt Disney before his death, but even afterward Edmundo Santos continued with the Spanish versions of the films. The last dubbing he directed was for The Rescuers Down Under, though he was unable to see the premiere since he passed away of heart complications in 1977. From that moment onward, his work was continued by Francisco Colmenero, his brother-in-law, also a dubbing artist. He and his brother, Jorge Colmenero, continued directing the dubbing work for Disney up to Mulan, in 1998. Starting with Beauty and the Beast (1991), Disney classics started to be dubbed in Spain, and in 1996 they also began to be dubbed into Catalan.

Edmundo Santos was an expeditious and perfectionist director, who sought naturalness in interpretation, and stood out because of his careful adaptation of the lyrics and songs and precise choice of casting. His versions are works of art replete with stellar voices that marked the golden age of Mexican dubbing.